How to Get SSHRC Funding: Tips and Advice on the Granting Process

June 1, 2021
Megan Perram (she/her), PhD Candidate in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta 

Congress 2021 blog edition 

Representatives from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Sébastien Cadieux, Nadine May, and Julia Warnes, came together to detail the variety of funding opportunities available for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in Canada. The panel focused on outlining the different funding streams for masters, doctoral and postdoctoral candidates, advice on how to navigate the application process, and helpful tips on preparing a strong application. 

Julia Warnes kicked off the panel detailing some changes to funding applications that we can expect in the coming year: “starting this year, all SSHRC doctoral and postdoctoral award applicants will be required to indicate as part of a new application module, whether diversity considerations are applicable to their proposed research design. In other words, research questions, methods, theory, sources, analysis, interpretation, and or dissemination of findings.” This new marker of diversity considerations will be measured through a justification document provided by the applicant. 

Next, Sébastien Cadieux took the virtual stage to dispel some common misconceptions that arise around the SSHRC funding process. The first myth is that SSHRC can offer feedback on individual applications. Unfortunately, Cadieux explains that the sheer volume of submissions would make this feat impossible. The second myth is that success rates may vary by committee. Any committee you choose will have the same success rate. What is important, according to Cadieux, is choosing the most appropriate committee for your research topic. The third myth to dispel is that SSHRC only funds targeted research. Cadieux ensures that SSHRC “continues to invest in humanities and social sciences research addressing a broad range of disciplines.” The fourth myth is that applying for funding through a Canadian institution versus a foreign institution will make a difference in the evaluation. As Cadieux explains: “the geographical location of the institution is far less important than the support offered and the resources available to the research.” Finally, the fifth myth is that it is who you know, not what you know. SSHRC screens all committee members for potential conflict of interest ensuring that applications are considered for high calibre excellence only.  

In French, Cadieux offered the audience some guidance on their application process. Some key takeaways included gaining your supervisor’s perspective on what committee to submit to. They typically have more experience in granting processes and can offer valuable feedback. Cadieux also notes that avoiding jargon or disciple-specific language is not just a request, it’s a requirement. Applications are reviewed by interdisciplinary committees, and if a member is not able to understand your application, this will hurt your chances. Further, Cadieux explains that your application needs to demonstrate how you are set apart from other applicants. You need to think critically about how you can highlight your strong points and demonstrate why you are a high calibre candidate deserving of funding. Finally, reviewing your application for grammar and spelling is often overlooked. This imperative step could mean the difference between you winning SSHRC funding or not. Even the most impressive research proposals can be diminished through a few grammatical errors.